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The plan comes cloaked in a sly smile and an overwhelming air of confidence, which offers assurances that everything will click together perfectly if for no other reason than Winston believes it will.
Still, the details of his plan to balance football and baseball remain a closely guarded secret, with Winston offering only vague hints.
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesJameis Winston scored 112 touchdowns in high school, but was redshirted and limited to a cheerleading role in his freshman season.”This spring is going to be fun,” he said.
Indeed, there might be no more tantalizing storyline, more audacious situation or more high-profile athlete at Florida State this spring than Winston and his quest to become the Seminoles’ starting quarterback on one field and starting left fielder — and potentially closer, too — on another.
The 6-foot-4 freshman already is something of a mythical figure. A year ago, he was the nation’s top quarterback recruit. He also was drafted in the 15th round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft by the Texas Rangers. He never has thrown a pass in a college game, but he already has burnished the myth by supposedly throwing footballs over a fraternity house on campus. He’ll take his first cuts for FSU’s baseball team this weekend, and head coach Mike Martin is considering giving Winston’s low-90s fastball a look at the back end of the bullpen, too. ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer recently suggested Winston could be the first overall selection in the NFL draft in 2015, but right now, Winston says he’s primarily focused on baseball.
“It’s about a 60-40 thing,” Winston said. “I’m mostly 60 with baseball, because I’ve got to get back in the groove with things, and about 40 on football because I’ve got to stay fit and ready for the spring.”
This is where the plan comes in.
For now, baseball can be the priority. The Seminoles’ season kicks off this weekend, and Winston has the luxury of focusing on the diamond for the next few weeks. But spring football starts in March, and that’s when Winston’s attention will be split — at least according to his coaches.
Martin said he has met with Jimbo Fisher, and the rules for Winston are simple: Football first, baseball second. But ask Winston, and things aren’t quite so cut and dry.
“I know I’m both,” he said. “During baseball season, I’m a baseball player. During football season, I’m a football player.”
For fans, this mantra can stir some concern. After all, Winston already has been deemed the savior at Florida State. He’ll be the next Heisman Trophy winner, a bigger, stronger version of Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, a dual threat destined to carry the Seminoles back to the promised land. Hyperbole comes with the territory.
Before all that happens, Winston has to win the starting job, and it’s easy to assume that splitting his attention between football and baseball puts him at a distinct disadvantage compared with Clint Trickett or Jacob Coker – two veterans with only the football playbook to occupy their attention.
Not surprisingly, Winston isn’t worried.
“I’m just going to go out there and try to get better,” he said. “If I know I’m trying to be my best and trying to get better, there’s nobody that’s going to be able to stop me from doing what I want to do.”
What Winston wants to do is follow a path few have traversed successfully. Football — particularly under Fisher’s demanding watch — is a full-time job. Baseball requires a skill set constantly refined. The demands are so immense that, with the exception of an elite few like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, a choice eventually must be made.
And yet, Winston hasn’t considered any option other than etching his name alongside Jackson and Sanders.
“Their mind didn’t get pushed in either direction,” Winston said. “So that’s what I’m thinking.”
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So the next few weeks are all about baseball. His arm feels strong, and he’s getting back into the groove at the plate.
When spring football begins, that becomes the priority. There will be days, Martin said, when Winston will practice with Fisher in the afternoon then suit up for a baseball game that evening. It’s a balance Martin said he believes Winston is prepared to handle, though there are concerns.
“Keep that green jersey on him,” said Martin, halfheartedly laughing off the possibility of an injury stunting Winston on either field.
Ignoring the possibilities is difficult, after all. Both Martin and Fisher have coached their share of marquee athletes over the years, but Winston’s plan exceeds even that elite status.
What separates Winston, however, is that the confidence he exudes isn’t self-absorbed. He inspires everyone to believe.
“[Baseball] will not hinder him in football,” Fisher said. “He won’t miss a day of practice. He’ll be in his meetings and practices every day. Both sports are very important to him, and he’s able to do both.”
If Winston doesn’t win the starting quarterback job, that’s OK. He was perhaps the most ardent cheerleader on FSU’s sideline in 2012, and he’ll embrace that role again if necessary. If his baseball career stagnates under the demands of football, that’s a price he can accept. He wants to experience a College World Series whether he has carried his team there or simply been along for the ride. Balancing the demands of baseball and football isn’t a chore, Winston said. It’s a luxury. He’s not thinking too far ahead. His plan is simply to enjoy as much of it as he can. “I’m competing year-round, I’ve got that burning desire inside me” Winston said. “Balancing the two is the most fun. When you’ve got to pick one, it’s hard. I love this sport and that sport. When you get to balance them, that’s fun.”
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